As I anticipate my family being together for the holiday, my thoughts move toward their favorite meals. When we are all together I try to make an old family favorite like Spaghetti and Turkey Meat Sauce, Tortellini with Basil Pesto, and Pasta with Sausage and Brussels Sprouts, for dinner as well as something new. It is not surprising to see at the top of the list of favorite dinners are pasta meals. When the kids were home, pasta dinners were king, and nothing goes better with pasta than homemade garlic bread.
Joe’s Dough, my husband’s artisan homemade bread, is also a family favorite, so whenever there is a surplus of sourdough batards, I make garlic bread. What’s not to love about warm bread bathed in butter and garlic? The sweet buttery smell of garlic bread baking in the oven is enough to take me on a dream vacation to the Mediterranean.
As much as I love garlic, it also has a dark side and a reputation for repelling friends and foes away. Often, food made with raw garlic is harsh and sticks around like an uninvited guest who stays for the week. When I used to make garlic bread with raw garlic, my Mediterranean fantasy quickly vanished with each reminder of its’ lingering presence. I totally believe garlic can scare away vampires because after eating a loaf of garlic bread made with raw garlic, the whole family disappears desperately seeking some fresh air.
Everything changed once I learned about toasting garlic cloves. This simple technique of dry toasting garlic cloves in a skillet, softens garlic’s harsh bite and lingering presence. The garlic becomes mellow, sweet and nutty like roasted garlic but not as strong. Toasted garlic mixed with soft butter, Romano cheese and fresh herbs, makes delicious garlic bread. The flavor is buttery and garlicky without being overwhelming.
This recipe is adapted from Cooks Illustrated 1999 recipe for garlic bread. I scaled down the amount of butter and garlic, but the technique is the same. What I learned over the years, is depending on the size and type of bread you use, determines the amount of butter you need.
Most recipes call for a whole stick of butter per 1-pound loaf of bread. When I make garlic bread, I found that a whole stick, (113 g), of butter was too much and made the garlic bread very greasy. Usually, I use between 4 tablespoons to 6 tablespoons (56 g – 84 g) of butter. Upon reflection, the bread I use is homemade sourdough batard which is very airy and light. There is less surface area to cover then a denser loaf, like Italian bread. This type of bread may require more butter than my sourdough batard. I recommend starting out with the less amount of butter and as you spread it over the surface add more if needed. Too much butter is as unpleasant as too much garlic.
I do like the two-step cooking process for garlic bread though. First, I wrap the bread in foil and bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes. This allows the garlic butter to melt into all the nooks and crannies throughout the bread. Then I unwrap the foil and open the bread buttered side up to brown in the oven. I prefer my garlic bread on the soft side, but if you like your bread crispy, place the bread under the broiler. Keep an eye on it, or you will end up with extra crispy garlic bread like the garlic bread pictured in this post.
Spice up your garlic bread by adding any of these ingredients:
Lemon zest, before or after cooking
Cayenne Pepper, about 1/8 teaspoon or to taste
More cheese, or two types of cheese like Fontinella and Romano
Change the fresh herbs to compliment your main entrée: rosemary, sage, basil, cilantro
Garlic Bread with Fresh Herbs
- 1- 1 lb (453 g) loaf of good quality bread, like Italian bread, Seeded Italian Bread, or Sourdough batard
- 4-6 TB (56 - 84 g) butter at room temperature, more or less depending on your bread
- 6 medium garlic cloves with skins left on
- 3 TB (14 g) grated Romano Cheese
- Pinch of sweet paprika
- Small handful of Italian parsley minced
- 4 basil leaves minced (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F /176°C and place the rack in the middle position.
Place a small heavy bottom skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Heat the skillet for 3 minutes then add the garlic cloves, with their peel still intact, to the skillet. Toast the garlic cloves turning them over from time to time so each side gets nicely browned and the cloves soften, about 5-10 minutes. Some garlic cloves will take longer than others to finish toasting. Remove each garlic clove when you see they are soft and browned.
Once the garlic is done, let them cool slightly until you can handle them. Peel away the skin and cut off the root end. Cut the garlic in half lengthwise and remove the green germ if present.
On a cutting board, group the garlic cloves together, then roughly mince them. Sprinkle a small pinch of Kosher salt over the minced cloves. With the side of your chef knife, press down on the cloves and smear it to the side to mash the garlic. Clean of the garlic paste off the knife blade and repeat, pressing down and smearing the garlic with the side of the knife until a smooth paste is made.
In a small bowl add the soft room temperature butter, the garlic paste, grated Romano cheese and mix until evenly combined. Add half of the minced herbs and mix.
Use a serrated knife and cut the loaf of bread in half down the length of the loaf. Open the bread like a book with the cut side of each half facing up.
Spread the garlic butter evenly over the cut sides of both halves of bread. Sprinkle a light dusting of sweet paprika over the buttered bread and add the remaining fresh herbs.
Place the top half of bread over the bottom piece of bread and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake the garlic bread in the oven for 15 minutes
Unwrap the foil then open the bread halves so both buttered sides are facing up. Bake until the edges start to brown, about 5 minutes.
Or place under the broiler until the edges are browned and crispy.
If you want cheesy garlic bread, add additional grated cheese after the bread has baked in the foil. Sprinkle the cheese over the buttered surface of each half, then place under the broiler and broil until the cheese has melted. If you are adding lemon zest, don't place the garlic bread under the broiler. It may burn and taste bitter.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Every Thanksgiving I cherish a vivid childhood memory of making stuffing with Mom. After all, this special occasion only happened once a year. Helping Mom with the dinner prep had two advantages. First, getting the turkey quickly in the oven meant the rest of our day was free for outdoor playtime. The rest of the day’s activities was on hold until the turkey was ready for roasting. My parents held Thanksgiving dinner in the early evening to allow for a full day of being outside. Traditionally, we either hiked along the Marin Headlands, or played touch football at Cronkite Beach. None of that was going to happen until the turkey was prepped, stuffed, and then popped in the oven. Not even breakfast.
Mom made a standard stuffing and it was delicious. Any little helpers got to “taste test” the mix, just to make sure the seasoning was perfect. Nowadays, the FDA discourages consuming food with raw eggs, but in the 60’s and 70’s no one thought about it. I loved her uncooked stuffing just like I love eating raw cookie dough. Together we mixed the stuffing, then tasted it a couple of times, “Just to be sure.” Slyly, I sneaked in as many nibbles as I could get away with. With the savory flavors from rich stock and aromatics cooked in gobs of butter, what’s not to like?
Fast forward to 2017, the spirit of my childhood Thanksgiving’s traditions is ever-present, especially when I make stuffing for our holiday turkey. Faithfully, I work to replicate the flavor memory of Mom’s stuffing. It is not as easy as it sounds because my stuffing is an entirely different beast. As a small seasonal side business, Joe bakes delicious sourdough bread. His bread is my staple ingredient, along with homemade stock and lots of add-ins.
I have nothing against the store-bought bread cubes. They make consistent and delicious stuffing. Yet, I have a freezer full of Joe’s Dough Artisan Bread, and I believe you use what you got. To be honest, it is more challenging using artisan bread for stuffing, and the results are less consistent. My theory is, the airier the bread the less stock you need. To get consistent results, it is more important to pay attention to how the bread soaks up the stock, then religiously follow a recipe. The first few times I made stuffing with Joe’s bread, the stuffing was either too wet or too dry. It took me several tries to figure it out. Fortunately, my mistakes and some extra research taught me a few tricks.
Three tricks for successful stuffing
First, when toasting the bread cubes in the oven, don’t let them get too brown. They should be just starting to brown. You are not making croutons here, just drying out bread for stuffing. The browner the bread the less stock it absorbs. It seems counter intuitive, yet keep the bread cubes light in color, but completely dried out.
The second and third tricks are interconnected. Add the stock in stages and give the bread mixture time to absorb it. At first, add half the stock then let it rest 10 minutes. Then, gently toss it about and see how wet it looks. This wait period makes a huge difference in understanding how much stock you need. I remember the first time I made stuffing with Joe’s Dough Bread, I only used half the stock required in the recipe because the bread cubes appeared to be swimming in stock. Unfortunately, the stuffing baked very dry and I was disappointed. Had I waited a few minutes, I would see the bread soak up the stock. Artisan bread has its own temperament that varies from day-to-day and year to year, no matter how consistent the baker is.
If you like your stuffing on the wet side, add more stock. If you want your stuffing moist but not wet, add less stock. Keep in mind how dense your bread is as well. I am still testing this theory, but the denser the bread the more stock you need. It takes some time to figure everything out, but eventually you will get to know the look and feel of the bread and stock ratio to get consistent results.
Do you need a gluten-free pie for Thanksgiving? Try Double Coconut Pie.
Great appetizer idea for Thanksgiving: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways
If you looked at stuffing recipes from around the country, you would see regional food trends and traditions. Each region uses ingredients that are abundant in their local area and lifestyle. I have a freezer full of bread, so it is my choice for stuffing. Additionally, in the Hudson Valley locally grown apples are easy to come by, and I love their sweet taste with savory herbs and aromatics. Other regions use local ingredients that are abundant in their area, like corn, oysters, sausage, wild rice, or cranberries.
Stuffing is so easy to adapt to suit your personal preference. If you want sausage, add about one pound of crumbled cooked sausage or bacon. Substitute fennel for the apples, or dried cranberries or raisins. You can also omit the apples altogether. If you do add dried fruit, soak it in some apple cider to soften it up. Also, leeks are a great substitute for onions, or use a combination of the two. Anything goes, just adjust the amount of ingredients accordingly.
In my opinion, Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without stuffing. I love it paired with gravy and cranberry sauce. The turkey may be the centerpiece of the meal, but I think it is the foundation for all the bright and savory flavors of the other side dishes. It’s all good.
My Favorite Stuffing Recipe
- 1 1/2 lb (750 g) loaf artisan quality bread*
- 10 TB (141 g) butter divided, plus more for greasing pan
- 12 oz (350 g) mushrooms, sliced
- 2 medium onions finely chopped
- 4 celery stalks finely chopped
- 2 tsp Kosher salt divided**
- 1 large crisp apple like Granny Smith chopped
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
- 4 stems of parsley roughly minced
- 6 sage leaves minced
- 5 sprigs of fresh thyme minced
- 3 eggs
- 3-4 cups (up to 1 liter) vegetable, chicken or turkey stock**
Preheat the oven to 300°F / 150°C and place the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.
Slice the bread in even one-inch slices, then tear each slice into pieces smaller than an inch. Divide and lay the torn bread evenly across two rimmed sheet pans. Place in the oven and bake until dry, but not browned, for about 25 - 30 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom half way through the baking time and turn the bread pieces over. It is ok if it the bread cubes turn very slightly brown. When done, remove the toasted bread cubes from the oven and cool. Once cool, slide the bread into a large mixing bowl. If making ahead of time, store in an air tight container for a couple of days, or freeze up to one month.
Raise the oven temperature to 350°F / 175°C and move the rack to the middle position. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish. (More surface area gives you more crispy pieces on top.)
Melt 2 TB (28 g) butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the liquid is released and evaporated. Remove to a small bowl or plate and reserve for later.
Add the remaining 8 TB of butter (1/2 cup / 113 g) to the skillet. Once melted add the chopped onion and celery. Stir to coat. Season with up to 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh ground pepper. Cook the onions and celery until they are very soft, about 12 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms and chopped apples and cook until the apples are starting to get tender and no liquid is in the skillet, about 5 minutes. The vegetables should be very tender, but the apples still have some bite left in them.
Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook until wine has evaporated.
Turn off the heat then add the prepared herbs to the cooked vegetables. Add the vegetable mixture to the toasted bread cubes and gently toss together. Let the mixture sit and cool for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and 2 cups (500 ml) of the stock.
Add the stock mixture to the bread. Add 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, (if your stock is salty add less), and 1 tsp fresh ground pepper. Stir until everything is evenly combined. Let the stuffing mixture sit and absorb all the stock for 10 - 15 minutes. Give the stuffing a good toss to help the stock get absorbed in the bread.
Slowly add the remaining stock, as needed, to the stuffing mixture a cup (250 ml) at a time. Stir to get evenly mixed. Let the stuffing rest for a few minutes and stir again. Add more stock as needed. This rest time allows the bread to soak up the stock. Let it rest a few minutes more if more stock needs to get absorbed.
Pour the stuffing into a prepared baking dish. Cut off a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the baking dish and smear butter over the dull side. Cover the stuffing with foil, butter side down, and bake in the oven until the stuffing is hot all the way through. Instant read thermometer should read 160°F (71 °C), 30-40 minutes.
When the stuffing is cooked all the way through, remove the foil and turn the oven temp up to 425°F (220°C). Bake the stuffing until golden brown, and crispy on top, about 30 minutes more.
Stuffing can be made one day ahead up to the first half of baking. Toast the top of the stuffing after you reheated the stuffing, before serving. Keep in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to two days or freeze up to one month.
* The amount of stock you need will vary depending on the type of bread you use. Use your discretion to determine the total amount of stock. **If you use store bought stock, look for low salt or no salt stock.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I have a few recipes that stand the test of time, is always there when I need it, and never fails me. This pumpkin bread recipe is one of them. It is always a crowd pleaser and it is so easy to make. If this recipe could talk, it would tell many tales of my children’s’ preschool snack time, their school bake sales, our weekends away visiting friends, homemade gifts, learning how to bake, swim meets, college care packages, and easy mornings at home.
Some foods and recipes are like that. They exist as part of our collective experience spanning a family’s history and time well spent with friends, teachers, colleagues, neighbors and family. They are treasured artifacts in the family archives. For me, I have a couple symbolic recipes that mark my parent’s heritage, but very few. Hopefully, I generated a selection of treasured recipes for my children to remember their childhood by, and create new ones that hold a special place in our growing family’s future.
My pumpkin bread is a throwback recipe from the 70’s when I was in high school. A dear friend gave me the recipe. I cannot remember what initiated this gift, but I believe she just wanted to share it. Harriot and her family loved to cook and were always generous with recipes and information about food. Whenever I was at their house, someone was in the kitchen making something. If I remember correctly, Harriot and I had a few cooking adventures of our own.
Besides the delicious taste, this pumpkin bread recipe has a couple of great features. One, it is easy to make and second, it makes two loaves. After all these years, I still can’t believe one small can of pumpkin purée makes two loaves of pumpkin bread. There is no need to measure out a cup of pumpkin mash and worry about what to make with the rest. That is a real pet peeve of mine. It is not the case for this pumpkin bread. One recipe, one can of pumpkin purée, two loaves of spicy pumpkin bread. A practical quick bread recipe.
Because it is so easy to make, it is perfect for a baking project with young children, or anyone who wants to learn how to bake. This recipe rarely fails. However, if it has been a while since you used baking powder or baking soda, make sure the leaveners are fresh. There was only one time this pumpkin bread did bake properly. Once, after I gave this recipe to a friend who said she couldn’t bake, she made it and came over to share it with me. She was so proud of her accomplishment I did not have the heart to tell her the bread did not rise. When that happens it usually means the baking powder and baking soda lost their leavening powers. Still, it tasted great and hopefully she kept on baking.
More family favorite recipes:
The spices are a mixture of cinnamon, allspice and a generous amount of ground clove. Not all pumpkin bread recipes include ground cloves, and I believe they fall flat. There is twice as much cinnamon and allspice to cloves in each loaf, yet the ground cloves gently stand out. I like that the cinnamon does not dominate the spicy favor. Often, after I serve pumpkin bread to friends I get a delighted question, “Oh nice. What spice am I tasting? ” My anser is always received with a surprised and happy expression, “It’s clove.”
Over the years I have made a few variations of this pumpkin bread, but I keep coming back to the original. I made it with canned pumpkin purée and fresh pumpkin purée. With orange zest, crumble topping, candied ginger, and different flours. Each variation slightly changes the texture of the bread. I discovered, the fresh pumpkin makes an airier bread. Also, I noticed the crust is crispier with the fresh pumpkin.
If you want to use fresh pumpkin, roast wedges of sugar pumpkin in a 400°F (200°C) oven until very tender. Scrape the roasted pumpkin from its’ peel and purée in a food processor, or blender until smooth. Cool and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Best Pumpkins to bake with.
I should call this Friendship Bread, because the recipe is enjoying a life span of over 40 plus years and growing. I never thought twice about sharing it with friends and family. The name Friendship Bread is already taken, so Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread it stays. A treasured heirloom for sharing over the years to come.
Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread
- 4 cups (574 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 3 cups (613 g) granulated sugar
- 1 15 oz can (425 g) pumpkin purée or 1 lb (453 g) fresh pumpkin purée
- 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable or canola oil
- 2/3 cup (150 ml) cold water
- 4 large eggs
Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (175° C / Gas Mark 4)
Prepare 2- 9 x 5 inch (24 x 13.5 cm) loaf pans. Lightly grease with butter or oil spray, then line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, Kosher salt, cinnamon allspice, and clove into a large mixing bowl. Then whisk the ingredients in the bowl until you see all the spices are evenly mixed in the flour. Add the sugar and whisk together until combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then add the pumpkin purée, oil, and water. Stir until just combined. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, scrape along the bottom and sides of the bowl to get everything thoroughly mixed.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly with each addition.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, about 3/4 full.
Place the bread pans in the oven and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove the pumpkin bread from their pans.
Cool on the cooling rack before serving.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Each year as my garden matures, the herb garden expands as well. Slowly, the herb bed has inched deeper into the precious sunny real-estate and has started replacing my lawn. I add one or two more herb plants a year and build my dream herb garden. One herb plant that is thriving is my chive plant. Fortunately, it is not growing out of control, but remains nicely contained in a tall spiky mound.
The plant grows without a lot of disturbance because I rarely use fresh chives in my cooking. However, it needed a thinning and removal of all the spent flowers before they spread their seeds. Afterwards, I was left with a large bundle of chives and a new challenge, how to use up all the chives before they go bad. This is the type of challenge I enjoy, and inspires me to look for new ideas.
I wanted to make something different, yet easily prepared and quick to finish. What I dreamed of was a recipe from Season 3 of The Great British Baking Show, Ian’s quick bread with wild garlic. While watching the episode, the smell of the wild garlic and bread traveled across the ocean and through my television, and I have craved it ever since. Unfortunately, I could not find his recipe. Rather, I came upon a recipe, which although is not British in nature, has that oniony-bready fix I was looking for.
This recipe is a savory bread with chives and cheddar cheese by Dorie Greenspan on the website, Serious Eats. It was exactly what I was craving, a savory quick bread to unload my bundle of chives, and give me some immediate satisfaction. I slightly adapted her recipe, and used Gruyère cheese, chives, garlic chives, lemon thyme and nixed the walnuts.
Dorie explains in her recipe; the French refer to just about everything made in a pan as a cake. A loaf such as this, is called, “cake salé” (meaning, salty or savory cake). This is a very light and cake-like bread that is perfect as a snack or appetizer paired with wine, beer or any cocktail. Like cake, it is light and airy in texture, but it is rich in flavor from the cheese and herbs. I also enjoyed this herb bread for lunch as avocado toast with lemon thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.
As Dorie recommends, this is a bread recipe to play around with. Use the dough as your foundation and switch up the cheese and herbs as you wish. A traditional cake salé recipe from France uses Emmentaller, Gruyère, or a mixture with Parmesan. She made her recipe with cheddar cheese and chives for a local US inspired loaf. She also recommends other add-in substitutes like nuts, diced ham, olives, pesto and cooked vegetables.
More appetizer ideas:
Making this cheese and chive herb bread is an amazing sensory treat. Every time I snipped, spread and stirred the chives, their scent came forward like an herbal wave engulfing the dough. Once in the oven, the smell of the baking herb bread filled my house with comforting aromas of melting cheese, bright onions and baking bread.
I love it when I discover something new and it turns out to be a smash hit. This recipe is so easy, I am sure to make it several times and continue to personalize it. I know something is delicious when every 5 minutes my husband and son kept repeating, “Oh, this is soo good. This is really good”. This is no exaggeration. It was all I could do to keep them from eating the whole loaf.
Cheesy Herb Bread
- 1 3/4 cup 268 g All-purpose flour
- 1 TB Baking powder
- 1/2 to 1 tsp Kosher salt amount of salt depends on the cheese and other add ins
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground white pepper
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1/3 cup 75 ml whole milk, room temperature
- 1/3 cup 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 3 oz 75 g coarsely grated cheese like Gruyere or cheddar
- 2 oz 50 g diced cheese like Gruyere or cheddar
- 1/2 cup 125 ml minced chives or other herbs
- 1 - 2 TB chopped lemon thyme
Set the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat the oven to 375˚F / 190˚C / Gas Mark 5, and generously butter a loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until evenly combined.
In a medium mixing bowl add the eggs, then whisk until well combined and somewhat frothy. Add the milk and olive oil and whisk together.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until everything is just combined. You do not want to over work the dough and there is no need for the dough to be thoroughly mixed together. Stir until everything is just mixed, it won't be smooth.
Stir in all the cheese, herbs and any other add ins you have, like chopped walnuts. The dough is thick, but carefully work in the cheese and herbs until evenly distributed. Don't overwork the dough.
Scrape into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The bread is done when it has a golden brown crust, and a cake tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of your pan and remove the bread from the pan. Cool the loaf on the rack until it is at room temperature.
Best eaten the day it is made, but it will keep for a day, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored on the counter.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
It appears that many cultures have a traditional stuffed pastry snack, at least in the Mediterranean. In Greece, Spanakopita is a popular appetizer made with phyllo dough, spinach and feta cheese. I also just learned about an Israeli stuffed pastry, Bureka, pronounced börek. Like spanakopita, it originated from Greece and Turkey but landed in Israel. Essentially, Burekas are individual stuffed pastry made with puff pastry or phyllo dough and filled with a savory filling of meats, cheese or vegetables.
Earlier this week I really wanted to bake, but I was in the mood for something savory. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of savory baking recipes in my memory box, so I looked to a new cookbook I borrowed from the library, Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft. Uri Scheft is a baker from Israel and owns bakeries in Tel Aviv and New York City. His cookbook focuses on Israeli bread baking. This is a wonderful cookbook with clearly written instructions along with photographs featuring each step. Reading this cookbook is like having Uri Scheft standing at your side and calmly teaching you how to bake bread.
Savory Stuffed Pastry
I did not have the time to bake bread and go through the different proofing stages so I decided to bake one of the burekas recipes featured in his cookbook. The photograph of the Swiss Chard bureka was so appealing and I could clearly visualize a group of friends sitting around a table, having drinks, eating burekas with tahini, olives and pickles. It was an all are welcome greeting with a large platter of delicious bites.
At the time, there were three things that attracted me to the recipe: the photograph as mentioned earlier, Swiss chard, and store-bought pastry dough. As Uri points out, puff pastry is very difficult for the average home baker to make, so buying puff pastry is a great time-saving alternative. I like to make a lot of food from scratch, but now puff pastry dough is out of my league. Buying it saves me a lot of time and worry.
I love braised Swiss chard. This leafy green is not as soft and mild as spinach, or bitter and tough like kale. It stands between the two in flavors and texture. I also love the vivid yellow and purple stems in rainbow chard. Swiss chard has a great balance of body and flavor that is not too bitter. With a sprinkle of lemon zest over Swiss chard and this bitter green vegetable really brightens up.
More recipes with Mediterranean Feel
Uri Scheft’s recipe had all my favorite ingredients with the convenience of store-bought puff pastry dough and I was eager to try it. This is not a difficult recipe to make, but working with puff pastry has its challenges. Each time I bake with it I get a different outcome. So clearly, there is more I should learn. However, listed here are a few key considerations when baking with puff pastry.
Good to know tips working with stuffed pastry
Look for good quality puff pastry made with all butter. The butter helps the laminating process of the pastry and creates the flakes.
My purchased puff pastry came in a one pound box with 2 sheets. The recipe calls for 5 strips of pastry cut at least 4 inches wide and about 12 inches long. How you figure the placement and division of the strips is up to you. I pinched the two pieces together and rolled out the pastry to the dimensions I needed. Unfortunately, I did not achieve a lot of puff. This could be for many reasons, one being the pastry dough is made with vegetable oil and not butter. Or, the dough was too warm. I often find the layers stick together. Here is a great article from Bon Appetit about working with puff pastry dough.
Remove as much of the liquid from the cooked vegetables drained out. Excess liquid will make the pastry soggy and weigh it down. Gently press on the vegetables in a fine mesh strainer with the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to mush the vegetables.
Make sure the prepared filled pastries are cold before you put them in a preheated oven. Either place in the freezer for twenty minutes or refrigerate for one hour. Don’t skip this step. The butter in the pastry dough must be cold to create a nice flaky pastry.
Advance preparation: Make the bureka and place them on a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer. Once they are frozen, put the burekas in a freezer bag and keep in the freezer for up to a month. When you are ready to bake, paint the egg wash over the frozen burekas and place them directly on a hot baking stone or an upside rimmed baking sheet in the preheated oven. Bake until golden brown.
For the Love of New Discoveries
I am sure by now you know how much I love learning about new foods and techniques. Cooking and baking is always a process of discovery, whether I made the dish for many years or just for the first time. New discoveries energize me and make me more curious. I was thrilled to learn about this savory stuffed pastry and hope to perfect my technique as I continue to make them. Happy cooking.
As always, I would love to hear from you and about your culinary adventures. You and follow me on Instagram @lemonthymeandginger, Facebook or leave a comment under this recipe on my blog.
Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta
Stuffed pastry with Swiss chard and feta cheese makes a great appetizer or serve for any meal of the day. This recipe is an adaption of a traditional Israeli snack called Bureka. Serve with yogurt tahini spread, olives, and hard-boiled eggs, to create the perfect al fresco meal. Please don't be discouraged by the long prep time. Most of the prep time is waiting for the dough to chill, or the vegetables to cool. With the cooling and chilling time in mind, just make sure you have plenty of time to make these savory stuffed pastries. This stuffed pastry recipe can be made in advance and frozen for up to one month for your convenience. This recipe is slightly adapted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft.
Swiss Chard Filling
- 12 oz 342 g Swiss chard
- 5 oz 142 g spinach, tough stems removed
- 1 TB 100 g olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion finely minced
- 2 celery stalks and leaves thinly sliced
- 1/2 tomato seeds removed and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Juice and zest from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 lb 455 g store-bought puff pastry - thawed if frozen
- All-purpose flour for rolling the pastry dough
- 1 1/4 cups 150 g feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 large egg
- 1 TB water
- For Garnishing
- Garnish with sesame seeds poppy seeds, everything bagel mixture, or dried herbs and spices
Swiss Chard Filling
Clean the Swiss Chard and remove the stems from the leaves. Cut the stems into 1/4 inch (.5 cm) chunks and set aside. Stack the chard leaves on top of each other and slice across the width into 1 inch (3 cm) ribbons. Then cut the ribbons in half across the width. Set aside.
Prepare the spinach the same as the Swiss Chard, but discard the stems. If you are using baby spinach there is no need to chop the leaves. However, remove any long stems from the baby spinach.
Turn the heat to medium and heat the olive oil in a large 10-inch skillet. Add the minced onion, celery and Swiss chard stems and 1/4 tsp of Kosher salt to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent browning.
Add the chopped tomato, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. Cook the vegetables until the tomatoes break down about 2 - 3 minutes. Stir the vegetables frequently while they are cooking.
Add half of the Swiss chard greens and 1/4 tsp Kosher salt, and stir and cook until the leaves have wilted. Once the first batch cooks down, add the remaining Swiss Chard and cook until it is all wilted.
Scrape in the spinach leaves in the skillet with the vegetables in two batches. Once the spinach is heated and wilted, add the lemon juice. Stir and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and other seasonings if needed. Remember, the cheese in the filling will add a lot of salt to the bureka, so keep that in mind when you are tasting the vegetables.
Transfer the filling to a bowl and cool completely. The cooked vegetables can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for several hours.
Once cooled, place the vegetables in a fine mesh strainer and drain out any excess water. Gently press down on the vegetables without squishing them.
Prepare the Puff Pastry
Make the egg wash. In a small bowl beat the egg, water and a pinch of salt until completely combined. Set aside.
Prepare two large rimmed baking sheets and line with parchment paper.
Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Set the puff pastry on the floured surface, long side facing you, and lightly flour the top of the pastry. Gently roll the pastry into a rectangle about 20 inches (51 cm) by 12 inches (30.5 cm) and 1/16 inch thick. When you roll out the pastry dough, roll the pin in one direction beginning from about 1/3 of the way up from the side closest to you. Switch directions and roll the pin across the width in one direction. And switch again. Turn the pastry over and roll in one direction from each side. Repeat this until you have an even shaped rectangle about 1/16 inch thick. Rolling the pin back and forth confuses the dough and you do not get an even stretch. Be careful not to overwork the dough because it could get too warm. If the dough gets sticky and hard to work with, place on a rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Assembly, Chill and Bake
Divide the dough into 5 strips across the width of the pastry dough, about 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 12 inches (30.5 cm) long. Brush each strip with the egg wash. Reserve the egg wash for later.
Divide the sautéed vegetables into 5 equal portions about 1/2 cup (120 ml). Spread the Swiss chard mixture evenly down the middle of each strip. Add about a shy 1/4 cup (60 ml) of feta cheese crumbles on top of the vegetables. (If the dough is difficult to work with, chill it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.)
Fold the right side of the pastry strip over the filling and even with the left side of the pastry, like closing a book from the back to the front. Press on the edges and seal. Turn the filled pastry seam side down.
Twist each pastry into a spiral and make them into a U shape. Place each pastry on the prepared baking sheets. Place in the refrigerator and chill for one hour. Or place in the freezer and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes to 400°F (200°C / Gas Mark 6). If you have baking stones add them on the oven racks when you turn the oven on. Or turn a rimmed baking sheet large enough for two or three bureka to fit, upside down on an oven rack. The stones or the baking sheet will get good and hot and help create a crisp crust. If you only have one stone bake the burekas in batches.
Brush the burekas with the egg wash and garnish with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt, or herbs and spices of your liking. Bake until the burekas are golden brown 30 - 35 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.
Burekas are best eaten the same day they are made. Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
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